THE MENENDEZ TRIAL: The Great Trial Tease

NEWARK – Sen. Bob Menendez had been looking forward to today.

On Wednesday night, Menendez uncharacteristically teased the next day’s testimony, saying his legal team was making “great progress” and that everyone should expect a “big day” on Thursday.
 
This morning, Menendez was joyful,  moved to tears as he spoke about his gratitude towards Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Lindsey Graham, at court and getting ready to take the witness stand to vouch for his honesty and integrity.
 
“When your colleagues come to testify for you, says a lot,” Menendez said.
 
What a difference an afternoon makes.
 
By the end of the trial day, two defense witnesses had been turned away by the judge before they had a chance to so much as swear to tell the truth. Defense attorneys moved for a mistrial based on the decision, but some of their arguments were openly mocked by Judge William Walls.
 
His friends the senators spirited out of Newark immediately after their testimony, his lawyers departed in a noisy cavalcade of rolling briefcases, Menendez addressed TV cameras with his two children on either side of him.
 
“I am disappointed that it came to the point my lawyers had to make the motion they made today,” Menendez said. “But we will carry on.”
 
Menendez is always guarded on his thoughts and reactions to courtroom action. This afternoon he revealed he agrees with his legal team that the judge has not treated the defense fairly.
 
“I think that what they said in court stands for how I feel,” he said.
 
Judge William Walls directed lawyers from both sides to draft briefs over the weekend on the mistrial motion. But the judge left little mystery on where he stood while engaging in often contentious arguments with the lead counsels for Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen.
 
“If this is your criticism, you’re entitled to it, but I say to you you have nothing in the way of merit,” Walls said.
 
The defense attorneys argued the judge refused to admit many important exhibits, including one on Medicare multi-dosing rules Melgen’s lawyer Kirk Ogrosky said the jury may want to see during deliberations. Walls said he’d bet Ogrosky “a nickel” the jurors would have no interest in reading it.
 
Walls also seemed to reject defense claims they hadn’t been allowed to use that exhibit and others to make the case Menendez was concerned with legitimate Medicare cost issues rather than only Melgen’s  $8.9 million dispute.
 
“Repetition does not denote merit,” Walls said.
 
Menendez’s attorney Abbe Lowell objected to the judge’s directions to the jury during defense witness Donald Scarinci’s testimony, when the judge reminded jurors they may be faced with witnesses who wish to deceive them.
 
“You’re telling the jury you didn’t believe his testimony,” Lowell said.
 
“I don’t think you fully understand the kind of weight you have,” Lowell said. “You have enormous weight.”
 
The prosecution tried not to screw up what looks like a sure thing for them by delivering a one-sentence argument against a mistrial.
 
“We agree the motion is without merit,” lead prosecutor Peter Koski said, “both procedurally and substantively, and we think the motion should be denied.”
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